Monday, November 30, 2009

The Water Flowers

1982 marked the publication of one of Edward Gorey's Christmas stories, The Water Flowers. In typical fashion, the title and cover illustration has little to do with the Yuletide season and the story has very little "Peace on Earth...".

Stranded in the house by snow and growing hungry, our intrepid characters begin to cook with the only ingredients on hand - flour and water. The result is an out of control white sauce that is served with Soda Crackers. People come, go, cook and die, but still the white sauce remains!

When we have nothing to eat in our house, Bill will often ask if I am going to make a delicious white sauce. We have both been known to look at something cooking on the stove and proclaim, "It's lumpy".

Published by Condon & Weed, Inc. of New York, The Water Flowers is a hardback in illustrated boards and a matching dust wrapper. The copy I am showing is signed and inscribed to me by Mr. Gorey. This story is reprinted in Amphigorey Again.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Dwindling Party

Edward Gorey was constantly inspired by new formats for his books. The challenge of creating The Dwindling Party as a three dimensional pop-up book fired his imagination. Because every surface (front and back) of the pop-ups are illustrated, this "Gorey Story" invites us to step inside, wander about and see all there is to see.

The Dwindling Party begins even before the reader opens the book. The story starts on the front cover and finishes on the rear cover. Each turn of the page shows a scene where the viewer can enhance their experience by creating movement or open secret doors. As the fantastic story literally unfolds in the viewers hands, the besotted family disappears one by one. Mr. Gorey has told us this story before (or a story that is almost the same) in The Evil Garden, but without color and movement.

The Dwindling Party was published in 1982 by Random House as a laminated hard cover book. First printings of the book have a number line running down to "0" behind a flap on the first page. The earliest printings also have a "peel off" price sticker on the front cover of $8.95. The copy I am showing is signed and inscribed to me by Edward Gorey.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Les Melange Funeste

Le Melange Funeste was published by the Gotham Book Mart in 1981 as a signed/limited edition of 500 numbered and 26 lettered copies. I am showing copy #28/500, and lettered copy "U".

This is the first of three cut apart limited edition books created by Edward Gorey. In this book, the cast of characters is divided into three sections so you can mix and match heads, torsos and lower body sections, creating unusual people/creatures. Because of the style of this book, it is unlikely it will be reprinted.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Les Urnes Utiles

Les Urnes Utiles is one of Edward Gorey's "silent" books (no story) in which the reader/viewer is encouraged to create a story for each picture. The unifying theme is the labeled urn that appears in each drawing. One of my favorites is the final urn labeled Hundreds and Thousands which is sitting in a kitchen. This urn probably makes little sense to many Americans, but would be more recognizable to the British. It refers to the brightly colored tiny round sugar decorations for cakes, cookies and trifles which are called "hundreds and thousands" in England, and sprinkles or jimmies in the United States. I believe this is a nod to Agatha Christie. In one of Ms. Christie's Miss Marple short stories, a man murders his wife by poisoning the hundreds and thousands on the dessert trifle.

Issued in 1980 as signed limited edition of 400 numbered and 26 lettered copies, Les Urnes Utiles was published by Haity-Furguson Publishing Company of Cambridge, MA. In the photo above, I am showing the front of copy #L/26 , and the back of copy #332/400. Les Urnes Utiles was reprinted in Amphigorey Also.

To the right is the announcement card used to publicize this book - the front of the card (not shown) shows the cover of the book. In 1990, Mr. Gorey used a translation of Les Urnes Utiles for the title for a play he produced on the Cape, Useful Urns.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dancing Cats & Neglected Murderesses

While not as famous as Lizzie Borden, Edward Gorey's Neglected Murderesses could possibly be his second most reprinted group of characters (the first being the unfortunate children of the Gashlycrumb Tinies). First appearing in 1979 in Murderess Ink (see the previous posting), these 12 enterprising women have made appearances as postcards, in books and on calendars. This group of women always reminds me of the Six Merry Murderesses of the Cook County Jail from the musical Chicago. Each woman (and child) from the group stands for their portrait placidly, daring the viewer to find fault with their deed.

After their debut in 1979, Workman Publishers printed Dancing Cats and Neglected Murderesses as a trade paperback in 1980. This book did not use a Gorey-designed cover, but rather took two black and white illustrations and added color and standard type. The resulting volume does not really have the look of a "Gorey Book". The copy I am showing is inscribed to me by Mr. Gorey.

Mr. Gorey was so disappointed with the look of the Workman publication that he designed a new cover for this title. Using the interior sheets from the Workman edition, but adding a limitation page, Mr. Gorey issued a signed limited edition the same year as the Workman publication. Limited to 300 numbered and 26 lettered copies. The new cover gives the book a "Gorey look", but does little to improve the poor printing quality of the sheets within. I am showing copy #59/300.

Presumably still not happy with their previous appearances in print, Mr. Gorey then initiated a THIRD appearance of the ladies in 1980. Leaving Workman behind, Neglected Murderesses Postcards was finally printed full size to the original illustrations as a limited edition post card set. Issued in an illustrated envelope (no stated publisher), and limited to 250 signed/numbered copies on a separate limitation page, this Gorey title is quite scarce and can be difficult to obtain. I am showing copy #54/250.

Not content to linger in the past, our enterprising females also appear in The Betrayed Confidence and Amphigorey Again.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Murder Ink

Edward Gorey contributed illustrations for many books and periodical publications. Two books which Mr. Gorey made contributions to were Murder Ink (Workman Publishing, New York, 1977) and Murderess Ink (Workman Publishing, New York, 1979).

Both of these volumes are dedicated to fictional murderers, murderesses and the authors who wrote about them. Each of the numerous chapters is a short essay on the many facets of crime writers, their characters, and their inspirations. For Murder Ink, Mr. Gorey drew a title page image and has two mentions within the book. Murderess Ink has the first appearance of the famous Neglected Murderesses postcard series.

Neglected Murderesses is a collection of twelve ruthless women - are all killers who disposed of their victims in novel ways. Unfortunately, the images are printed rather poorly in this book and the illustrations have been downsized to fit the pages. In the photo to the right, you can see a postcard printed at the correct size for the original artwork. These enterprising ladies will appear in no less than three publications of their own...more to come!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Published in 1980 by Andrew Alpern, New York, F.M.R.A. is something of a Gorey oddity. Consisting of 33 printed images of various sizes, shapes and presentations housed in a custom clamshell box, this title has the feel of a miniature exhibition of Gorey drawings. Present are Christmas and Valentine's Day card designs, spot illustrations from magazines and a few previously unpublished pieces of art. Some images are printed on small pieces of paper, others are larger and folded to fit into the box, and one small envelope contains seven tiny drawings.

Because of the piecemeal quality of the inclusions, F.M.R.A. will probably never be reissued. Originally issued in an edition of 426 copies (400 numbered and 26 lettered), the contents of each box include an illustrated title sheet, a limitation page, the various illustrations, and a table of contents sheet that identifies each inclusion. The 400 numbered copies were housed in a beige colored clamsell box while the lettered copies are in a greenish-brown box. All boxes had the title stamped in gold on the "spine". I am showing copy #323/400.

Curiously, F.M.R.A. was not a quick seller, and Gotham Book Mart had copies of this title available for many years. This was unusual for a limited edition Gorey title.